Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said James Comey was “uneasy” about having dinner with President Donald Trump in January.
Clapper told MSNBC on Friday that Comey, the former FBI director whom Trump abruptly ousted on Wednesday, mentioned that he’d been invited to the White House for dinner shortly after Trump’s inauguration.
“He said he was uneasy with that because of compromising — even the optics, the appearance of independence,” Clapper said. “Not only of him but of the FBI.”
Clapper said Comey accepted Trump’s dinner invitation out of “professional courtesy.”
“You’re in a difficult position to refuse to go,” Clapper added. “But I do know he was uneasy with it.”
During the dinner, Comey refused to pledge loyalty to Trump at least twice during the dinner, The New York Times reported on Thursday evening. Comey countered that he’d pledge to be “honest” with Trump, according to the Times.
Trump’s abrupt dismissal of Comey has led to allegations, particularly from Democrats, that the FBI may have been closing in on compromising material while investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
In a Wednesday letter announcing Comey’s firing, Trump wrote that the former FBI director had assured him in three separate conversations that he wasn’t under investigation. Trump reiterated this in a Thursday interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.
The FBI, the House, and the Senate are all conducting investigations into Russia’s interference, and the Trump campaign’s ties to Kremlin officials. Clapper said Friday he doesn’t know if there was “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was fired following the revelations that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence over conversations he had with Serge Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US. Clapper said that he didn’t think Flynn had the “skill set” to be national security advisor.
On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that the Russia investigation was a “witch hunt” and that there was “no collusion” with the Russian government.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump said.
Clapper added that “morale in the FBI was very high” under Comey’s leadership. “I witnessed personally the very high esteem and respect people in the FBI have, and still have, for Jim Comey,” Clapper said.
Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI director, echoed this sentiment in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, contradicting the narrative coming from the White House.